Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The moral level of intellectuals

This is my first post here, but it's not about the Mumbai evictions. I will address that later.

I wonder how many activists who live their lives mostly among educated intellectuals reflect on the moral level of this culture is. I am often struck by how abysmally low this moral level is.

Harsh Mander during his visit to Asha Seattle mentioned that the communally most insensitive people he found were the educated ones, IIT'ans being the worst. I think his observations are merited.

I am currently attending a workshop on database technology, and am just shocked by the insensitivity of the people around me. Yesterday there was this conversation on an accusation by some Iraqis back in 2003 when the war had just begun, that a bomb had been dropped by the US in Baghdad. This accusation was covered prominently by Al-Jazeera. There was this guy standing ahead of the shrapnel displaying a hole behind him that, according to him, was caused by the bomb. Apparently, it turned out that the bomb was not one used by the US (it had the words USA, but wasn't used by the US army), and it took a few days for the US military to trace the origin of the bomb (based on it's serial number that was visible in the Al Jazeera coverage). Within these few days, there was a lot of coverage of this incident, and the esteemed people around me were lamenting about what a big public relations disaster it was. You should have been there to see people's reactions. There was virtually unanimous agreement that technical discussions begin with this story. No one was quite saying it loud, but the portrayal of the US army as innocent victims had everyone's sympathy and attention. And this was a crowd consisting of distinguished people with varieties of awards and honors!

I have no doubt the specific facts they are discussing are correct, but it is just shocking to see that they chose to pick these facts to discuss and chose to completely ignore all the monstrous things the US army actually does. The association of support for the US government with patriotism is extremely deep-rooted.

No wonder Victor Klemperer said in his diaries as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps that he would reserve special punishment for intellectuals should the chance for retribution ever come ("I would have all the intellectuals strung up, and the professors three feet higher than the rest.").

No wonder Harsh Mander's observations are merited. This has been true in my experience as well. Among the circles I am part of, the ones with the lowest moral levels tend to have higher educational degrees.

There were a couple of Indians at the workshop as well. For some reason, we got down to discussing education. They were contending that most poorer parents in India don't want to send their children to school, and that they must be sued for this purpose! I have nothing to say about this in polite terms, except that this form of idiocy is far more prevalent than one suspects.

Makes me furious some times that I'm stuck in this horrible culture. And ashamed.....


At 2:54 PM, Blogger Swati said...

I had the same problem till I realized that the education we get is about how to move up the ladder in a selfish way forgetting & if possible / needed taking advantage of others. With that perspective I have stopped expecting anything else from the "educated" people.

This is another reason I continue to emphasize that the indegenous cultures around the world have much to teach us in terms of sharing & caring & unless we hear that soon enough & change our ways fast enough we are simply doomed.

The whole culture of "educated" & well off society is about "growth" which completely leaves out sustainability & therefore is a very short-sighted culture.


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